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San Joaquin Valley College Blog

Online Medical Assisting program makes career advancement possible

March 19, 2015
Online medical assisting student Brandi Howard
Career doors flew open for Brandi Howard when she completed her Online Medical Assisting certificate program.

There was no way Brandi Howard was going to be able to quit her two jobs so she could sit in a classroom. On her own financially, she could not afford to lose the income. Brandi also knew that without more education she would not advance in her position as a paraprofessional for an autism facility.

When a higher position opened up, the reality hit hard. “My application wouldn’t be taken seriously because of my lack of education,” says Brandi. “I knew what my potential was, but felt like there was something blocking that.”

Brandi had a major flashback. When she was 14-years old Brandi watched as Debbie, her single mom of three, studied for her second Associate’s degree. “I’d help her study,” she recalls fondly.

Maybe what worked for Debbie and her eventual success in nursing would work for Brandi.

Brandi found SJVC’s Clinical Medical Assisting Online certificate program and jumped in, realizing this was the only way she could balance education with full-time work.

Always on the teaching and administrative side of the medical industry, Brandi was eager to explore a fit on the clinical side. “I definitely have that nurturing quality and sometimes take care of someone else before myself,” says Brandi.

But this ambitious plan came with huge sacrifices. Working 70-hour each week with 20-hours of Online class time risked being thrown into crisis mode.

“I really had to work on my time management,” says Brandi. “I was working 16-hour days and all of my breaks, all of my lunches, before work, after work; I had to give up sleep and I had no social life.”

No one said it would be easy; least of all her mom. “Her advice to me was: take a deep breath to keep myself calm.”

Brandi blossomed in her medical studies. She leaned heavily on the Online support team, which included Frances Valdovinos, Career Services Advisor and Alex Nolasco, Academic Advisor. “The best thing about the Online program was the support staff,” says Brandi. “They would call and make sure I was staying on track and not so overwhelmed with the work load.”

“Since I made the first call to Brandi, I knew she was going to be great,” says Frances Valdovinos. “She was always very professional, turned in top notch work assignments, and kept the lines of communication open.”

Brandi maintained a 4.0 GPA and a solid presence on the Dean’s List. When it was time for her externship, she cut one of her jobs loose so that she could give greater focus to patient care and the professionals with whom she worked.

Immediately after completing the CMA program Brandi applied for and passed her National Center for Competency Testing exam, which earned her a National Certified Medical Assistant credential. “That is great to put on my resume,” exclaims Brandi.

Brandi is about to begin the next stage of her new career with positions at two different sites at the UC Davis medical center that she found through a staffing agency. One position focuses more on back-office patient care, while the other more on front-office patient involvement. The positions are 6-month assignments in a temp-to-hire framework.

“I think of it as a working interview that also lets me see where my strengths lie, while I establish that rapport with patients and the medical community,” says Brandi.

Brandi is looking forward to sharing graduation with students from the Rancho Cordova campus on April 10th. A huge support group of 20-25 friends and family will cheer her on. “There will be a roar in the crowd when I go across the stage,” laughs Brandi, who will be easily spotted in her honor colors and sash.

Brandi is not waiting to share all she has learned from this time of sacrifice.

“I wake up each day telling myself that I’m going to influence one person today,” says Brandi. “Instead of ‘How’s it going,’ I’m going to let them know that they are valued.”

Her inspiration to help others was strong. “In the beginning it was my mom who inspired me, but towards the end it was myself; I needed to set an example for myself,” says Brandi.

Her philosophy makes perfect sense. “Going from teaching to (clinical) medical is not that different,” she says. “I still get to take care of people, just the way I go about it is different. My role is still to change somebody’s life.”

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